A resident of Finland, Jaana Räisänen works at Varia Vocational College in a tourism capacity. Earlier, she worked at Oman Tourism College (OTC) as Director of Quality for Vocational Studies. During her six-year tenure, Jaana was instrumental in forming the ‘Women in Tourism’ network among other projects towards sustainable tourism.
Back in Vantaa, a city in Finland, the happiest country in the world, she acts as a virtual tourism ambassador inspiring many Omanis to take to tourism. She recollects her time during Ramadhan and how she spent her time with the Omanis.
Based in Finland, how will you be able to contribute towards Oman’s tourism development?
Oman is relatively unknown in Finland although a good number of travel agencies do trips to Oman. There is a lot to do in terms of raising awareness and promoting the country as a tourism destination or business partner in Oman. There are plans to continue cooperation with OTC, possibly during the annual World Tourism Day in September, together with the international tourism students of Varia College in Finland, where I am currently positioned. We will get some virtual tours from Oman for the event. The biggest tourism fair is the Matka Nordic Travel Fair in January in Helsinki. It would be great to see Oman being featured, where I and our international tourism students could be of assistance.
What do you feel is the future of tourism in Oman and what needs to be improved?
Oman has all it takes to be a
world-class quality tourism destination. The focus worldwide is now on sustainable tourism, ensuring that future generations too can enjoy the precious planet. The authentic Omani culture, heritage and people are what makes Oman special and interesting for tourists.
Can you explain the ‘Women in Tourism’ project you launched?
In 2015 during the first meeting together with industry and OTC ladies, but without the support of the Dean and Dr Shoba Zachariah, the then Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs, the idea would not have materialised. I ended up doing my MBA thesis for a Finnish University about the network.
Jaana Raisanen with daughter Jasmine.[/caption]
How was your days at the OTC and your contribution to tourism in Oman?
During my earlier days as Director of Quality for Vocational Studies at OTC, I had requested advice from Dr Abdulkarim al Mughairi, Dean of the College, on how to best succeed in my work. The College became like a family to me and with Jasmine, my daughter, we joined together for many celebrations.
My fondest experience was being part of the Eid celebrations at Saima village in Wilayat of Izki, courtesy of Mohamed al Rawahi, OTC Head of Internships and Placements. We witnessed the shuwa ceremony during the festive celebrations with Omani families and had one of the tastiest meals ever. The lovely ladies at OTC namely Maryam al Nasseri, Alia al Amri, Johka al Harthy and Hanna al Abri guided me through wrapping my hijab during Ramadhan, introducing me to different types of dates and sharing stories of everyday life.
Shaping the future face of tourism — as is the slogan of OTC — was what we were working on together with the tourism industry and other stakeholders.
At the vocational training we introduced competence based curricula and started to work in teacher teams. Talented Omani women in tourism namely Samira al Ghafry, Mariam al Araimi, Samya al Balushi, Muna al Riyami, Um Kulthum al Mamari inspired us to establish the OTC ‘Lady Leaders in Tourism’ network, now named ‘Women in Tourism.’
The aim of the network is improving the perception of the tourism industry as a career for Omani women, increasing the number of women joining tourism education and starting a career or business in tourism supporting each other in the process. I am looking forward to the next network event, hoping to support it virtually from Finland.
What is your advice to young Omanis?
My advice to young Omanis is to dream and set goals, as Oman extends such great support that they really have fantastic possibilities. They can explore the tourism industry as a possible career. In a recent virtual interview by Finnish tourism students, Badar al Dhuhli, OTC Acting Head of Tourism and Management, has painted a positive picture of the post pandemic tourism in Oman.
He is an eloquent advocate for Omani tourism, which basically all of the students want to book their holidays to the Sultanate at the earliest. Authentic cultural experiences, amazing natural landscapes, world-class hotels and resorts with warm and welcoming people are a winning formula.
The pictures were taken before the Covid-19 pandemic began.